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Genesis — Selling England by the Pound

February 6, 2013


Selling England by the Pound


Blessed with a wide-ranging rasping voice, Peter Gabriel was in ’73 a kind of lunatic with pantomime stage costumes and playful lyrics that parodied music hall. Somehow his quirky ideas and public-schoolboy perspective made Genesis into a major force in the music multiverse.

The Betty Swanwick cover, reminiscent of Stanley Spencer, was where Genesis seemed to be musically. Inspired directly by this painting, I know what I Like is their most enduring anthem – Bedlam meets afternoon tea on the lawn, with demobbed uncles handing out depressing advice to a potentially feckless generation:

…There’s a future for you in the fire escape trade…

Whereas other like-minded bands like Yes and ELP did their best work with their earliest albums, Genesis improved with experience. The instrumental interludes on Selling England were addictive, where increasingly with the competition they were tiresome. Keyboard man Banks is ever skilful but without showing off – At no point do you feel any Moogs may have been harmed during the making of this record.

Seeming to be a wry comment on the culture of Green Shield Stamps and Tesco, opening track Dancing with the Moonlit Knight has the versatile PG as both town crier and troubadour.

The sublime piano of  Firth of Forth illustrates the album’s general restlessness – leafing through musical ideas before resolving and letting us down in a bed of feathers. The stuff where there is delight in detail, the last of which to be uncovered a hundred journeys around the turntable. This slow disclosure is also a pleasing feature of Cinema Show and After the Ordeal.

If the 1974 follow up album The Lamb Lies Down is their finest hour, Selling England is their finest 45 minutes.


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